HOW TO WRITE THE BODY OF AN ESSAY

Read expert tips on how to write the body of your essay. Find study tips and homework help for high school and college students.

It is your job as a writer to determine how many body paragraphs are necessary to the form, flow, and content of your essay – but however many you choose, they are the “meat” of your text, and serve a great function. Body paragraphs contain details, evidence, and support for your argument. They provide all the information you have researched, all the opinions you have formed –so make sure they are well-developed! When outlining body paragraphs, you will break them down further into “topic sentences,” “support,” and in some cases “transitions” which all comprise the majority of your essay.  Since we can consider this the “meat” of the essay, it is important body paragraphs are well-evidenced and support your thesis. More importantly, however, is that you remember to stick to one idea per body paragraph.

ELEMENTS TO A BODY PARAGRAPH

TOPIC SENTENCES

Topic sentences are found at the beginning of each body paragraph. They determine what each paragraph will be about, so make sure they are clear, precise, and guided. Think of it as a succinct statement that answers the question, “What is this paragraph saying?” and will guide your reader’s understanding of the content that follows. It is very important that you stick to the idea presented in your topic sentence for the rest of your paragraph. Do not get tangential or provide information that goes beyond what the topic is saying – when it’s time to go beyond, it too is time to start a new paragraph.

SUPPORT

Details that support your claim and thesis will be found in your body paragraphs – be sure to cite specific evidence when making your outline! This is what strengthens and confirms your research. It should not be understated. Your research should be well-documented and backed by variant sources. Here is where you prove your knowledge. Explicate all ideas and provide citations whenever necessary. Go further than just showing evidence – tell what that evidence means and why it is important to your argument.

TRANSITIONS

It is important to include transitions in your outline so as to improve the flow of your text – make sure when you move from one idea to the next, you have some way of connecting, furthering, and transitioning. Otherwise, a reader will be lost. Transitioning between paragraphs is really key. Here are some examples of transition words: although, moreover, further, however, inversely, likewise. It’s easy to Google complete lists online if you’re stuck.

CHECKLIST

Keep this checklist in mind when checking to make sure your body paragraph is well-developed and complete:

  1. I have a clear topic sentence that will control and dictate the main idea of my paragraph.
  2. I have provided specific evidence that supports the topic sentence which supports the thesis of my entire text.
  3. I have cited all evidence necessary.
  4. I have gone beyond just regurgitating information I have researched – I have explicated and stressed an analysis of that information.
  5. I have provided and explained examples.
  6. My paragraph is one cohesive unit and is not tangential or never-ending.
  7. There are transitions between ideas and paragraphs.
  8. I have finished with a sentence that is concluding and prepares the reader to move on to the next idea.

EXAMPLES OF POOR BODY PARAGRAPH ELEMENTS 

TANGENTS

Sometimes writers get lost in their own ideas. Instead of adhering to the map set up in the first sentence of a paragraph, with their topic sentence, some writers may add in details that are unnecessary, outside the argument, and even completely unrelated. After each sentence you write in the body paragraph, ask, “Is this adhering to my topic sentence? Is this information new? Do I need to start a new paragraph? Is this even important to my argument?”

LACK OF CLARITY

Sometimes, we forget to be simple. The best advice for not making a mess of your body is to keep it simple. Make sure you are clear and don’t overrun the paragraph with ideas that might be tangled, messy, or too intricate.

NO ANALYSIS

It’s great if you can locate evidence that supports your argument, but that evidence means nothing if it isn’t explained! A reader wants to know why you have chosen the evidence you have, what it means for your argument, and how you, as a writer and researcher, have analyzed it.